Sunday, May 17, 2020

Build Your Stack for the Summer Sizzle

As we all fondly recall, summer vacation is the ultimate - even during a pandemic! Staying up late into the night, basking in the golden sun, slurping up frothy ice cream concoctions, and yes - hopefully reading a good book or two or three...or three in one day. And why not?  It's summer, after all.

Here is my 2020 sizzling summer read picks for tweens and teens.  The list includes classics; diverse voices; prose and verse; and most importantly, a window, mirror, and sliding glass door book for everyone.  Time to indulge in the double scoop of ice cream and get your read on!

Kimberly's 2020 Summer Reading List for Tweens and Teens

1) One of Us Is Lying - Karen M. McManus

2) Lord of the Flies - William Golding

3) The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros

4) Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

5) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

6) The 57 Bus - Dashka Slater

7) The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - Suzanne Collins

8) The Best of Roald Dahl - Roald Dahl

9) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie

10) The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

11) Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

12) Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur

Starting a Distance Learning YA Book Club?
Check out my Book Club Bundle for remote ideas and activities:

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Celebrate National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world.

Why should we devote an entire month to honor words written in verse?  Because poetry is the language of the soul.  When life drowns us with its dark moments, poetry throws us a raft – a verbal sanctuary of healing and beauty - especially during this unprecedented time of fear and uncertainty.

So I urge you to release your inner poet and succumb to the sensory language, rhythm, flavor, call and response of poetry.  Feel the human spirit and universality of life's shared stories in a stanza.  Read or write a poem this month.  Restore your spirit.  Restore your soul.

Ten Favorite Poems

  1. “Sick” – Shel Silverstein
  2. “Phenomenal Woman” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Oranges” – Gary Soto
  5. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
  6. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare
  7. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” – Robert Herrick
  8. “The Kiss” – Sara Teasdale
  9. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas 
  10. Fragment 31 – Sappho

April Challenge:  Write a Cinquain

A cinquain is five line poem that follows this lyrical pattern:

1) a word for the title
2) two adjectives
3) three verbs
4) a phrase
5) the title again – or synonym


Dark or milk
Smooth, silky, sweet
Best thing ever

Large, mysterious
Watching, rolling, blinking
Tell more than words

Short, sweet
Five, simple steps
Maybe not so easy…

Teaching poetry?
Kick start your poetry unit with my Poetry Jumbo Bundle for everything you need!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Literacy Lockdown!

Last year at this time, I was celebrating Drop Everything and Read Day with kids at Cheekwood!  It was one of those perfect moment days....

This year we're social distancing at home.  And I have to say, I really miss reading to kids, walking the gardens, and celebrating the sights and smells of spring among the tulips, daffodils, and hydrangeas.  

But we can all take this time to press pause and celebrate literacy - and of course Drop Everything and Read.  

Here are a few other reading/writing ideas for a productive Literacy Lockdown:

  • Look up five new words
  • Write a favorite author or post a stellar review
  • Read past your bedtime
  • Write a poem
  • Host a virtual book club
  • Create a character
  • Re-read a favorite children's book
  • Write a diary entry of a favorite character - in voice
  • Make a bookmark
  • Make a video reading a children's book; post on Youtube
  • Play word games 
  • Complete a crossword puzzle
  • Read something that makes you laugh or cry over the phone to a friend or family member
  • Read waaaaay past your bedtime! 

Be well...Be safe...Be neighborly...and always get your read on!


Saturday, February 8, 2020

Valentine's Literary Love Quotes

Need some passion inspo this Valentine's Day?  Whether you're feeling mushy, gushy, or crushy - look no further than a book for a swoon-worthy literary love quote.  

Here are some of my favorites:

"Do I love you? My god, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches." 
—William Goldman, The Princess Bride

"When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun." 
—William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

"You might not have been my first love, but you were the love that made all the other loves irrelevant”
—Rupi Kaur, milk and honey

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
–Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVII

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” —A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

“Don't ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it.” 
― Toni Morrison, Jazz

"Love shook my heart
Like the wind on the mountain
rushing over the oak trees." 
— Sappho

"We loved with a love that was more than love." 
—Edgar Allan Poe, "Annabel Lee"

“You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”
—Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind

"Who, being loved, is poor?" — Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

"I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins." 
— Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

For more literary love inspiration and classroom activities, check out my Literary Love Quote Task Cards and Valentine's Day Literary Bundle

Love, read, and write with abandon...HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!! 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Janus Words for January

I’m a word nerd.  I love them.  I keep files of cool words and will text myself ones I come across when reading for further reflection.  I’ve been known to look up words in the middle of the night, which means I must dream about them.  Yes – Word NERD!  I love anagrams, puns, and word etymology.  And French words and phrases...don’t get me started!  Nothing is more fun to drop in casual conversation.  Must be a je ne sais quoi thing.

So for January, I thought it would be fun to write about Janus words.  A Janus word is a contronym or a word with two opposite meanings.  Appropriately named after the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two opposite faces, Janus words are spelled the same but function as auto-antonyms.

Ten Examples of Janus Words:

  • Bolt – to secure OR to run away
  • Clip – to separate OR to join
  • Fast – firmly fixed OR moving rapidly
  • Left – to leave OR to remain
  • Oversight – inadvertent mistake OR watchful care
  • Rock – to be firm OR to sway or tilt
  • Sanction – to allow OR to prohibit
  • Screen – to display, such as a film OR to conceal
  • Trip – To dance or skip OR to stumble 
  • Weather – to endure OR to erode

So get two-faced and create some juicy sentences with Janus words.  Or add to the list.  In the interim, reflect on this sentence: “Because of the teacher’s oversight, the students’ behavior was sanctioned.”  This could be interpreted two different ways as a result of the Janus words oversight and sanctioned.  Either way someone ran a tight ship or got off scot-free.  How I loved that latter kind of teacher.    

Ahhh…word play!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

'Tis the Season for Window and Mirror Books

             ‘Tis the season of giving so I challenge everyone to adopt a classroom and help a teacher “Build Your Stack” chock full of window and mirror books.  #BuildYourStack is the National Council Teachers of English literacy initiative that focuses on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries.  Window and mirror books is my own add-on for giving kids access to books that reflect themselves and the world around them - in a time when this call to action is needed most. 
             So what is so formative about window and mirror books?  

The simple fact is we live in a world that is multicultural, plural, and diverse.  It’s time our libraries, classrooms, and homes reflected this important truth. Literature is a socializing agent that literally tells children what the world values through the messages it sends. To wit, every child must have access to MIRROR BOOKS first to confirm and celebrate their reality.  And every child must have access to WINDOW BOOKS to expand their worldview andteach them to be global citizens.

To understand the impact of what this really means, we must understand the power of literature by looking at it through a different lens and avoiding the danger of the single story.  Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks of the danger of the single story in her beautifully powerful 2009 TED TALK.  She warns, “The single story creates stereotypes and problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story.”  

Chimamanda, who grew up in eastern Nigeria, explains to audiences how she learned to read and write at an early age modeling her stories solely after window books.  As a young girl, Chimamanda had no access to mirror books that reflected her reality and this affected her sense of how the world worked.  Now that we know the difference, we must do better…but teachers and librarians need our help!   

This holiday season help a teacher build their stack of window and mirror books that ensure literacy engagement and make reading a joyful and purposeful activity. Let’s empower children with the opportunity to discover the varied richness of our world through the transformative power of literature, one story at a time.  …Because the right book in the right hands can transform a life - and that is the true spirit of Joy, Love, and Peace.   

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Teaching Mood and Tone

Teaching tweens the nuances of mood and tone can be a challenge.  The terms are often interchangeable i.e., misused, and in a middle schooler's mind, they are sort of formless and abstract.  Yet, mood and tone are a very powerful literary concept.  They are literally what give text its "texture."

Enter my go-to visual Mood/Tone guy:

As the little guy above illustrates, the drive-through version of tone is the author's attitude toward the subject, and mood is the feeling of the reader.

Specifically, to teach tone, I refer to the anti-phony Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye:

  • "All morons hate it when you call them a moron.
  • “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”
  • “Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”
Holden’s tone is bitterly sarcastic and critical as he ruminates on the nature of things and the hypocrisy of people.  Salinger's tone is achieved through word choice.

Some words used to identify tone could be:
  1. Anxious
  2. Bold
  3. Confrontational
  4. Curious
  5. Dismissive
  6. Encouraging
  7. Hip
  8. Hopeful
  9. Open
  10. Overbearing
  11. Passionate
  12. Sarcastic
  13. Smarmy
  14. Suspicious
  15. Uncouth
  16. Upbeat
  17. Urbane
  18. Wisecracking
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

To teach mood, I present Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken":

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The gloomy, somber mood belies a voice and feeling of regret.  The speaker took the road less traveled, but wishes he could have traveled both.  The reader is left with the grave, somewhat melancholic fact that we only have one life to live, and choice is everything.

Some words used to identify mood could be:
  1. Alarming
  2. Brooding
  3. Buoyant
  4. Comical
  5. Confining
  6. Cool
  7. Dark
  8. Fantastical
  9. Hopeful
  10. Light
  11. Melancholy
  12. Ominous
  13. Oppressive
  14. Relaxed
  15. Sexy
  16. Spooky
  17. Suspenseful
  18. Warm

So forge ahead.  Demystify mood and tone, and teach author's style with aplomb.  Your students will catch on in no time, hopefully eager to hone their own writing style.

For more classroom activities and lessons on mood/tone and other literary concepts, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers: